tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 7, 2009 12:00am-12:30am EST
[captioning de possible by et public television] tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavismiley. first up tonig, a coersation with best-selling authoritch albom. a vetera columnist for the "detroitree press" and the auth of best-sellingooks likeuesdays with more is ouwith another book atop "the new yo times" list. his latest is called "have a lile faith." so tonig, actor chiwetel ejiofor stops by the two-time golden globe nominee stars with john cusack and danny glovern the upcoming film "2012." we're gl you've joined us. author mitch alb and aor chiwetel ejiofor coming up right now. >> there are smany things thatal-mart is looking forwarto doing. like helpingeople live
better. but mostly wee looki forward to help bui stronger communitiesnd relationships. becae of your help, theest is yet to me. nationwide iurance proudly supportstavis smiley." tavis and nationwid insurance. working to improve finanal teracy and the economi empowerment at comes with it. >> ♪ nationwides on your side ♪ >> and by conibutions to your pbs ation from viewers le you. thank you. tavis: mitch albom is a long-time cumnist for the "detroit free press" who h become onof the biggest selling auths of our time with a number ne "neyork times" bt seller like "tuesdays with morrie" andthe
fiveeople you meet in heaven." he is at the top of the best seller list, "ha a little faith." a true sry. he joinss from new york. mitch, nice to have u on the ogram. >> thanks,avis. tavis: let mstart with a cry question. i know you don't write bks for the purpose of bei a -- atop the lesbut there i something abouthe stories that you choose and the way you write at makes everythng you write etty much aerennial best seller. whatoes mitch albom mak of that? >> i'm stunned. pretty much. i ean, "tuesda with morrie" was an accident. i was just trying pay morr's medical expenses and a tinyook, very few publishers wanted it. many said no, it wasn't worh puishing and when they printed 20,000 copies at the ginning, well, we'll be lucky if we sell those. d everything that's happened ever since then has kindof been stuing to me. tavis: speaking of tryg to pay morrie' bills, th one "have a little faith," you are as weay in the chuh tithing on this book. tell mabout that firgs.
>> well, the sto mes tween two worlds. and two meof faith in tho worlds. and the one at you're ferencing is in my hometown detroit. where ere's a ptor for a chur called the i am my brother'keeper ministries. he used to be a pretty rough character when he was younr. he was involved in pretty much everythi you could think of. drugs a crime and tefy and he was incarcerateand turned his life around whene thought he would be murdered by his drug dealersnd said jus, if you get me out of th, you can have me in the morng. anhe got out of it. and 20 years later,e's now nning this churc in detroit where it's kind of a homeless shelr as well as a church inside. ly it has this terrible huge hole in its roo where rain and snow litally come in and ld on the pews. and it'sreezing cold inside because ey can't afford to heat it because the heat goes up tough the hole. one of thehings i decided to with this book was tithe the profitto a foundation called e hole in the roof foundati. to f that holend then to
fix any other types ofoles or repairs that need to be donin ples of faith that help the homess. i think the very least, ose pces deserve to be warm and dry and safe. tavis: very cool. very cool. you talke-- y mentioned your hometown o detroit. you sti say that wh a great de of pride. i do. tavi tell me w with a what detroit is going throu. >> well, maybe because of all that detroit's going through. you know, the are still an awful loof good people. even though we have % unemplment. and about 100,000bandoned buildings in theity. there's still people pulli together. helpg one another. and lieving that we canome back fromt. anthis little church that i chronie in here, sort of been forgotten by almost everybody. and yet the people come in on sund mornings and at one point it was so col in there that the homess population of this church actual built a plastic tenlt inside the sanctuary so they w have a
place to be warm a dry and pr. whilthe sanctuary wasetting rained onnd snow coming in, and freezing cold, this little plastic tent was up front d on sunday mornings, people would comen with tir cts and huddle andray for a beer day. but they prayed for a better day in detroit. you see that kind of spirit, you kind o say i'm not leaving, either. i'm going to stick and fight it out. that's why it stays my hom tavis: backo the text, have a little faith. who knewhat mitch wasuch a rson of faith hself? i'm being somewhat funny here. i didt know this about you. thatou woulde attracted t a suect matter like this. well, you were rig. i didn't ow about me, either. the fact is ias raised wi faith as aid. actually prettyeavily indoctrinated with it. went to a religious acade when i w 11 years old and ayed there through high school. but walked away from it li a lot of pple do. when i started to have some success ando well and i was young and althy and like a lot of pple saying it's not that i d't believe in godbut figure i can go way and he
can go his and i'musy and doing and we'll be fine. and then abo nine years ago, i went back to t town where i grew up in new jersey. anthe rabbi of the synagogue that iad belonged to my whole pulled me asi, he was 82,nd he said i want task you a favor. i id ok. and he sd, i would like you to dthe eulogy at my funeral. and is just stunnede. beuse although i had known him my whole le, i wn't particularly religious. and who was i to do aulogy for the guy who does eulogies? and so i sort of said the only way can i dohat is if i get to know u as a man and he said i accep and that began what i thoug would be a cple of months worth of vits. but turn out to be eight years. he livednother eight years through several strokes and cancercares. and it became likthis second -- i don't know, educati or lassng of me in the beay of faith, whe you see it at a all level. you know, not on the big lpits or the grand stage but
with these two men o god in the off urs, away from the pulpit and o of the robes. and th really was inspiring toe. tavis: what are you - do you take away from being ae to profile these two men who have different faith? >> that they're not so different. that's the thing. i remember towarthe end of the rabbs life, i was visiting him ande were talking abouteaven. and he said, you know,hat he hopei got a lot more years on earth when we saw eh other agn in heaven, we would have lot to talk about. and i said,o you really think 're going to see each other again? d he said, well, don't you? and i saidell, let's face it. i don't think i'm going ere you'reoing. and he said, what do u mean? i said, you're a man of god. and he looked at me and he said, you're a man o god, too. everyones. and tavis, you could have hit me wh a brick. for ts 90-ar-old man at thatoint, to -so righteous and pieuto put himself on e
-- pus to putimself on the sameevel as me, not oy umble act but whatai should be abou it's notbout i'm more righteous than you are. and not mine's betterhan yours isut the ability to lo at everybody and say you're a man of god, too. yore a child of god, too evyone is. if we could just say that to one another, you wou have to treat one another betr. because you wod see them as -- as the sames you. and so you would feel obliged to. and so i saw this ite 90-year-old suurban rabbi in nejersey, and this african-american, 50-year-old pastor in a broken down church in detroit, and on pape they could no be furth apart. but yet united by that thing, you're a man of god too, everyone is. they were in o very important way e same. and i thought if i couldtitch these two together, then all along that stitcng, are ople like myself and others who might be able to learn mething from it. tavis: there a two questions i want to ask you. will split them up but both
related to t same thing. theirst is -- andou didn't plan it this wayut your book comes out at time, if you look athat same list that y sit atop of, the bes seller list, e notes very quily that god is under attack. i think you know what i mn by this. there are a whe bunch of books wrten by a bunch o people that areelling rather well that undscore the fact that god is under attack, karl armstrong on ts program has new book o in defense ofod if i can put it that way. what do you makef the fact that you have a book cing out talkg about "have a lite faith" at a time when the majority of book that are selling have anythi to do with godappen to be books th are attacking the very notionf god? >>eah. i didn't write iin response to that. tavis: exactly. >> but it is interesting tt that happens. and its interesting a lot of people seem to be flocking t the ideahat yes, it's ok to have faith. you know, the r, who i nicknamed thrabbi, tolme an interesting story abouan ageyift dentis of his w --
atheist denti of his who would say how dyou believe i this stupid god and on time h lost, his brothedied and the rev went to his house to pay a condolence call and he came running over to him and vy angry, h said, i envy you. and the rev said what do you mean, yoenvy me? i envy yu because whe somebody dies n your life you ve somebody to get angry at or ask why and i don't have -- i don't belie in any of that and i ve nobody to blame and noby to ask. and the rev saidhat's a very sad indictment, you know, to feel le you're so alone in the world. and the rev himself hadost a ughter. what cld be worse than that? a little 4-year-d girl. and he t had how old at god and he hadaid how couldou do this? why? and i asked m, doesn't that make y think that god doesn't exist? and he saiquite the opposite. it was t fact that i had someby to sayhy. and cry . and ask andray to. that ultimately allowede to heal. and i would much rather liv in a world where i felt that god
was there but mbe for whatev reason, couldn't answer that prayer than to live in a world where ielt it was nothing at all. and i agr. and iuess we'll all find out who was right in the endooner or later. but while we're here, i'd like tohink like he did tavis: there are a l of folk in the sports wod like you, i think of james brown on cbs, the nfl on sunys. i thinof the greatoach and now doing nbc, covere or commentarytony dungy from the colts. therare a number of players, a nuer of athletes, that's just footbl. but therare a number of athletes whoave written books of le talking about their faith. agn, yours is a bit different th these two ministers, these two ministers. but how do yourite a book like thi mitch, without proselytizing? >> well, you simply knothat that'sot your role. you know, i was around twoery wise menf different -- difrent experiences. i had do that once with
morrie in "tuesdays with morrie" who never thought of myself having sething to teach aboutife but i had a teacher who was dying whoas sharg what he thought. and here i w in the presence of a manf god faced with the ultimate test his faith, his ath, and i was able t write what he id. here i was with a man who was on the ground with a shoun behind row of trash cans hen he was 3years old about to be murdered. and ask god to get me through the night. and somehow, he got through the night. and the next moing, decided i'm going to turn my lif around. mugely inspiring thing 20 years later he' a pastor. these pele had their own stories to tell. as somne who when it comes to nonfiction almost like to let the othepeople tell their stories and i'sort of the person in the middle. here's what they said. u read it. you see if tre's something thatou can embrace and me sense to yo you don't neede to wag a finger and tell you, yohave to read is or this is how you have to behave.
anfor whatevereason, the peop that have come to my bookseem to find sometng in them tt works for them. tavis: there areillions of folk who can give at testimony. no pun intended. the new book for mch albom is called "have a little faith." a true story. mih, you've done it once again. and i'm ways honored to have you on this program. >> it's my pasure, tavis. thanks for asking me tavis: thanks, sir. up next, actorhiwetel ejiofor. stay with us. chiwetel eofor is a talented actor whose film credits include americanangster, talk to me and love actuay. he starred in the fil "d game," anpartheid film, seen heren pbs. you cacatch him in the movie "2012." thhigh-profile cast cludes john cusack,annyglover, tandy newton and woody harrellson. here now a scene from 012." >> we'ot seeing theoil or anyvidence of fracte propagation within the tectonic
plates. >> english. >> the seismic actity on th west coast is not caused by -- >> these so-called sface crks have no nothing to do with shifting fault lines. >> areou suggesting this could be t beginning of the -- >> d helmsley is flyin to yellowstone this morning to collect more data. >>e have been folowing the schedule. you established. mr. helmsley. the mt important schedule i the history of mankind. now you're telling me, you have to throw it out. >> y, sir. i was wrong. tavis: a friend of mine yesterday, kwing you and i wereoing to talk that i am not buif i were a young actor in this town receipt noi wouldant to be you. u re getting like -- you're getting all the best roles. inll the best films. i mean, tha list i rea a moment ago. i love "talk toe." you aramazing in that. >> great timdoing it. tavis: you runown the list of things you've been doing and the big movie th everybody is talking about, "20." and you play scientist. i play a geologist w
becomes awar of the situaon that's goingo engulfhe world. and tn does. tavis: ye. more what youan -- y can't get too much - give too much ofhis movie away but tell us about the story. >> it's the storybout the apocalypse based on the mayan calendar. and a group ofeople who are trying to suive the end of days. and it's just exciting, very n ride, a real adventure. and somebodyho i've always admired, somebod who has a great passion for bringing a really amazing visua style, a real visual cinema to audiences. and using every technolog ailable. to giv audiees an incredib, unique experienc and this movie is noifferent. 's a really amazing ride. and it was great fun to be on. tavis:hris, our producer, my producer and i we laughing before we came on thset with you. you know a movie me by the same pele that did "independence day." you ask yourlf, what's left to bw up? >> that's true. and it turns out there is stuff.
theres stuff left. tas: and you blow up the white house. and whaelse is left for "22"? >> yeah. there's stuff. he travels around a bit in this e. vis: right. >> and we were doing a press tour and tveling around and it's amazing you go to plas that aren'tn the movie le -- we were in sydney doing a bit of press and people come to you, what's wrong with the harbor bridg y can't you blow that up? tavis: athing to get in the film. >>es. tavis: back the part i raised a moment o. about the choice roles that you're getng. obviously ittarts with your talent t -- and there are a lot of talented fk in this town. in this business. beyond your talent,ell me, more aboutour process, how you're going about in your careemaking these decisions because u're making some pretty gd decisions here. >> i don't know. i'm ry -- i've been very fortunate wi some of the scripts that have come my way. tavis:american gangster." >> and you menoned "talk to
me." i had an incredib time working on thatfilm with don cheadle and casey lemons. and i've bn very fortunaten that regard. d i read scripts. and i try and work out whether i want to go on the adventure, go on the ride wit them. and therare so manyalented peop out there. and there are so ma talented writers. talented directo. an so if they admi your work, and if they wa to work with you, you're ju very, very lucky to be in thatpot. tavis:eah. eaking of your movie denzel now, you workewith twice. >> yeah. tavis: tell me mo. >> well, we d "inside man" and "american gangster." and "inside man" w my first experience working with denz. and, you know, he's an amazing person. and he is just the most credible actor. to baround, to wat, t learn from. it's really i think every experience have wh him has been jt remarkable.
and so i'm excited to see if ere's another one in our fure. who knows? tavis: what's your -- speaking of watching him anlearning, what's your processor how you learn? is it watching other people? who are - contempories, watchinfolk who have made their mark in endustry? where do youick up pointers and cues from? with regard to other actors? >> i think it's -- i think with acting, what's important is -- i don't think u can take -- i don't think you can use like one sour of something. i think you have to use life. i really do. ani think it's about periencing life. d i think it's about trying to gain knowledge from anythg om what you read, to what you watch, to wh you listen to. to find an kind of artistic inspiration, to fd any of those coecting points betwe a characr and the perso and yourself i think you can't necesrily play a pt if it's not in you. somewhere. you know, buit doesn't have be literally the sam
experien. you just have connect to a character emotionally. and then th's when you can go on theourney but you can onl do that if you expernce -- experience life a little. tavis: i read, i d't always believe what iead so let me ask you, but read that you decideyou wanted to act wn u were 13. afteratching careyrant. true? >> not cpletely true. but carey grant is stillne of my favorit actors ever. and he - he cld do -- i just felt he could do anything. ani was so -- he wa so charismatic. i was so mesrized by his perrmances. and found him so completely believable. and he could do dra. he could do comedy. he could split between these fferent things so effort helesslyhat i was impressed him- so effortlessly tt i was impressedy him and t first time i resnded to cinema andinema actin but i was -- i was inspired to become an actor bause i wanted to be a stage actor. d i was ipired by ñ akespeare when wn i w
studyi shakespeare. i was -- iound it very -- fo years, i found -- wn i srted, i foundhat just in englh class, learning shakespear i found it very dull. i just couldn't get head around it d didn't understand it at all. and staring out the winw. and then oneay, we were doing someing from one of the shakespeareaplays. was "henry the iv" andt captured my imaginaon and i got it. anthat was it. i reallyan with it. and i was tellineverybody th i've discovered this inedible wrir. hgot something here. and they were like, yeah, peop know him. and i wentown to the theer immediately. and did my first shakespre play there where i was 13, 14. tavis: do yorecall when you got it? when you got wha shaspeare wareally all about, w brilliant s work was? you recall what it was in
the writing th you connected to? >> it was - i just felthat the's a sequencin henryhe iv partne where -- hal is talking about e ideas of -- he's a prie. and he's going to livthis life and he's considered tbe slight ridiculous. anhe's running around town and he's -- with people who are consided kind of low lifes buhaving a great te. and he has this eech about s sense of his own futur his sense of his own -- his ho for his desny. and i tnk every adolescent connects to at. i think everodyeels that the pan of being in either a family environme or a life environment or whatever that you're frustrated. you have so muchou want to fer. yore waiting to become an adult. you'reaiting to get out tre and do something. whatever it is. and you feel held back by your age or by whater's or maneyly happening.
-- o hormonally happening. and he said this in an incredibly scinct and poetic way. and ju talks with a great fluidity and a pro fundity and i was sitting tre and i was 13. and i understoodt. 400 years. and i undstood directly and connected direcy to what shakespeare was talking aut. and so thought, you know, he's got to be ono something. tavis: i don't knowour full schedule obvioly but it would appear to me, to your fans, thate're seeing a lot more of you on the screen these days than on the stage. soiven that you started o wanting to be on thetage, are you happwith this balance or lack thereof? between age and screen? >> i've been able to do a lot of plays. over theears. which has beegreat. and, you know, i'v been able kind of balance that as much as can. and is been -- fell inove with making films as well. it happened ater for me. i di't immediately think of myself aa film actor. and i -- and i did lot of
plays and staed working the films when i was 19. and i was he in los angeles working "amistad"hich was my first -the movie cinem film. and overhat pcess, although i went back to london and carried on that phase, after that process, a little while, i did a film called "dirty pretty things" and fell in love with cinema of that and i wanted to be part of it d still do. so i wasxcited to t and get that balance and try and das ma movies as welas plays that i couldo. tavis: you try --e mentioned "talk to me" and i keep saying i love that film smaller budget as comred to "2012." is there any balan that you attempt to strike inerms of bi budget vers independent ors it just about the script anwhat's being offered to u at any time? >> yeah. i thinit's -- on th hole, it's just about the -- it's just about t script. it's about the characts. and i don't know. that could change.
it's a kind of complicated industry and businesin that way. d different things hold your attention at dierent times in your life. so that could change. but certainly up until this pot, i've always felt that it what takes precence for me ilike just what --hat the character is, whether connect to the sry. the exactame reasons that i waed to start being an actor is the reaso why i connue. but -- a also now as wel i do like peoe seeing movie thai find entertaining. i don't feel like eve movie has to be part of kind of serious genre but it's go tdo. a few diffent things. tavis: that's thperfect word for 012." it is enterining to be sur chiweteejiofor, a lot ogood stufand one of the best actors around for my money today. not that tt matters but i joy having you on the program. good to see you. >> pleasure. thank you. tavis: that's our show for tonit. catch me on thweekends on public radio internation.
you can acce us at pbs.org and i'll see you bk next time on pbs. good nht from l.a., and thks for watching. as always,eep the faith. >> for more infortion on today's show visit tavis smiley at pbsrg. tavis: i'm tavis smiley. in me next time wit author andrew ross sorkin on his be seller too big to fail plus piano virtuoso lang lang. >>here are so many this that wal-mart is looking forward to doing like hng people live better. but moly, we're looking forward helping bui stronger communitiesnd relationshs. beuse of your help, theest is yet to come. nationwide insuran proudly supports "tavismiley."